Saturday, February 23, 2013

Updating Your Website? Think Mobile.

Why? Because for most of us earthlings, there's just no other way to get to the Internet except via our mobile phones. In fact, "more than a third of the people in the US don't have Internet access at home, but nine out of ten have a mobile phone," Olof Schybergson writes in a recent Fortune article. And of those mobile owners, he estimates that about a third use their phones to access the Internet. If you need more proof, Hubspot sponsored (in September 2011 but hey the numbers are just bigger now) this great research collection, More than Talk: Action in Mobile Marketing.

If you're introducing a mobile strategy and thinking you can simply shrink down your desktop site, think again. Although for those of us who "grow our own" sites in Blogger and Wordpress, there are convenient adjustments that include recommendations as well as template suggestions. But the ability to view your PC Website with a mobile device with an HTML browser doesn't mean that the experience is fun or easy. 

Mobithinking reminds us of some of these basics like the fact that viewing a PC Website on a mobile phone requires scrolling left and right, and up and down. That most web-enabled phones are not smartphones. Also that most mobile phones have small screens. No matter how good the mobile connection, large images will be slow to load. Many technologies, like Flash for example, commonly used on PC sites don't work well on many handsets. Yes, even Apple.

The conclusion is obvious. Mobile users have different requirements than desktop Web users and provide different opportunities for your business. Just re-sizing your web site for a target audience that's mobile first means that you're missing a chance, to offer your customers a mobile environment that is clean, simple and even intimate. Intimate, like the lady in my mobile navigation application or remember Hal in 2001: Space Odyssey? 

Since it looks like the best advice is to tell you to get a reputable design agency to work with you to ensure your site and campaigns are both mobile and web friendly, I asked my friend, Skip Shuda, co-founder of Philly Marketing Labs, what he recommends. He confirmed that some clients are experiencing regular, monthly growth rates of nearly 10% in mobile traffic and suggested auditing mobile traffic as a first step. 

That said, he had two key suggestions. First, your email marketing should be view-able in a mobile friendly format. In 2011, 27% of all email was read on a mobile device. Businesses need to make sure their emails can be ready and acted upon. Skip advises, "Check with your email service provider to make sure they are sending responsive email that adapts to the mobile device. Mailchimp does a great job with responsive email templates that are ready out of the box."

Second, make sure your landing pages are optimized for mobile. He said that, "Most people can fill out a form easily enough with their phones. However, if they have to scroll around to do so, the completion rate will plummet." Skip recommended Hubspot's landing page tool. "It lets you toggle between the mobile and web version of your page - so you can see both formats. That kind of tool is becoming critical to marketers."

Another trusted resource, Rick Simmons, president of Dinkum Interactive, pointed out that at the end of the day, " While many look at their site on a phone and say it looks fine, mobile requires a different experience for the user and you better be prepared to provide it. It is all about giving the users what they want when they want it and in most cases they are using the phone for different reasons than PC or a tablet.”

And Forrester's research agrees. The report entitled "The Future of Mobile Application Development" (with thanks to Mobile Marketer's, Lauren Johnson) found that marketers and developers need to have a grasp on a user's total mobile experience.

It's clear that gone are the days when talking to someone was the reason to use the phone. Emerging best practices indicate that if you want to build sales and retain customers, as you update your online dialog, you need to be including mobile in your repertoire. But take a look at your current customers first. They won't steer you wrong.